Helping a child learn English fast

teacher and boy learning English through play with cars and couple discussing a movie
16 May Shelley Vernon 1 Comment

I heard from a private tutor who asked me how best to proceed teaching English to children in hospital one on one. One of his pupils is now 18 and has been fighting a dreadful disease all his life. This child has learned almost perfect English with a beautiful accent. He did this by listening to music, watching movies and playing video games. I'd be inclined to be actively involved working with the children, rather than sticking them in front of a website, after all, they can do that without a teacher, don't you think? 


Using movies to become fluent


As a teacher, it's a cop-out to play long movies during valuable class-time but you can play trailers (teasers). Show the trailer and make guesses as to what happens in the film. Talk about the characters and how you think they will evolve. The student then watches the whole film for homework and you discuss it in the next lesson. Find out what types of film your student enjoys. Don't (potentially) bore them with your favorite black and white all-time classics but get their input and follow their interests. On the other hand, don't stick exclusively to those movies your student likes. Broaden your cultural horizons and choose great films from all around the English-speaking world.

If your student is a beginner and doesn't understand enough English for discussion, use much simpler tasks when working with a movie clip. For example, have the student look out for the colour of a car, an item of clothing, or the food being prepared in a scene. Tailor your questions to the level of your student.



  • It can be most helpful to show subtitles in English in conjunction with the English audio.
  • Make sure the content is appropriate.

being scared watching a movie


Using songs


Work on lyrics of your student's favorite songs. See how many lyrics the student knows already and fill in the blanks. You'll find useful. Teach key vocabulary through games such as these: How to teach a child English one on one. Make up an action for keywords in the song and perform these actions while the music plays. Ask your student to suggest actions, this way you'll be in the realm of what he or she is comfortable with. For homework have your student find out about the musicians and talk about the band members biography and daily lives.


Make quiz questions about your student's interests, building them up gradually over a series of lessons. Keep all these questions, each one on a separate piece of card, that you can later draw out of a hat for a quiz game. Use different colour card for types of questions - red for a music question, green for a geography question, blue for science, yellow for sport, and so on. If your student is not interested in sport then choose a category that does interest them. Personally, the endless questions about which baseball player scored the highest number of runs in Dallas in 1972 is of no interest to me, but to others, it's fascinating! Questions should be a mix of things they know and teach you, and you know and teach them. Both of you will learn!


If your pupils are beginners use games like Find the Pairs Memory game, Battleships, from this book, Snap, Cluedo, Monopoly and other board games, they all have speaking opportunities. 

people doing hobbies, pottery, photography, DIY

The key is to work with topics your student loves.


If you find out what your pupil loves and work with that it'll be a win-win situation. You'll learn from each other. If he or she has a hobby, find out all about it. For example, if your students loves pottery, it might not be realistic to make a pot during a lesson but you can learn about the techniques and the materials needed. You can also learn about types of pots, porcelain,famous pottery and archaeology. Just because the textbook covers family members or clothes doesn't mean you have to stick to that religiously. If your textbook teaches adjectives with clothes (a red skirt, a long coat) and your pupil is crazy about cars, teach adjectives with cars instead (a fast Porsche, a blue Mercedes). Remember, the lessons are about your student, not you. If you are bored with discussing different types of trains after four lessons, your student may just be getting started!




Thank you so much for this information, as a student of teaching english as a asecond lenguage im improving a lot daily applying this tips into my practice,

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